Innovation Blog

A Letter From Our CEO Celebrating 15 Years of MassChallenge

Fifteen years ago, we were founded with a mission: to help startups win. Our early mantra was, “If it is humanly possible, we will get it done.” In 2010, the world’s most passionate team set out to build the world’s most passionate community to support startups, aiming for a scale that was breathtaking and a vibe that is now described as joyous. While our peers centered their models on financial capital, we built ours around social capital, believing that connectivity to knowledge, networks, and partners was equally critical and more scalable, yielding positive spillover effects for individuals and entire ecosystems.

Today, we find ourselves, by design, in a unique global position: a nonprofit in a predominantly for-profit arena. We support mainstream entrepreneurs, purpose-driven entrepreneurs, and social changemakers. Over 100,000 individuals have directly participated in MC, and many more indirectly. Our 4,300 alumni span health, sustainable food systems, enterprise technology, and social impact, highlighting the breadth of our influence. Nearly 50% of our startups are led by female founders and over 50% by founders of color. We have an IPO rate competitive with TechStars and a portfolio of 250 nonprofit alumni. Our collaborations span venture capitalists, community-based organizations, public-private partnerships, and the Department of Defense.

We are deeply proud of our accomplishments and grateful for the thousands who have contributed to our mission. We are also highly motivated by the work ahead. The startup and venture capital landscapes are both profoundly awe-inspiring and profoundly limited. We have created an internet that allows billions of people to access information. However, healthcare costs and disparities continue to rise, the education sector remains largely untouched, financial access remains a challenge, NetZero targets are out of reach, and the percentage of funding for hardtech has declined to less than 20% of all capital. Venture capital disproportionately benefits Stanford and Google grads, with little left for others.

This concentration of venture capital compared to the awesome scale of the opportunity is exactly why we feel confident and conviction in answering the question, “Why is there an MC when there is a YC?”  What we know is that startups have a role to play in a more inspired future, whether healthier, more sustainable, more biodiverse, more resilient, more secure, or more equitable—founders have a role to play in driving progress. 

We also recognize the gaps in the ecosystem, knowledge base, and capital stack—particularly for founders tackling massive challenges, especially those from uncommon backgrounds. While venture capital is effective when self-interest aligns, it is inadequate when it does not. This is why we need an honest broker with the purpose, flexibility, and optimism to challenge the status quo.

This sense of opportunity fuels our purpose: to radically empower innovators to build an inspired future.

In the next 15 years, we will continue to passionately build a global network for innovators solving massive challenges. We will champion the open-source acceleration process we have pioneered—supporting creative, collaborative, community-led innovation. We will use our voice to promote innovation, optimism, inclusion, and impact. We will also focus on addressing gaps in the ecosystem and startup playbook to catalyze a future where innovation, impact, and inclusion thrive together. Specifically, we will focus on four key areas:

  1. Growing support systems for uncommon founders to build transformational companies alongside their peers.
  2. Building a continuum of support from early product-market fit to commercialization for founders working in crucial but resistant systems: Health, Sustainability, Food, Security, and Financial Access. This will involve evolving our industry-leading program portfolio and investing in our network’s quality, density, and breadth to deliver impactful mentorship and partner models.
  3. Advancing a thriving global-local network. We will sustain our commitment to our Hubs, fostering high-impact, high-inclusion innovation ecosystems locally, regionally, and nationally. We will also enhance connectivity across our Hubs and through our Bridge program, enabling innovators with global aspirations to access resources to create global impact at scale.
  4. Inspiring a new narrative. Together with our community, we will build a collective voice and knowledge base that envisions a more global, diverse future beyond Silicon Valley.

These efforts are neither easy nor short-term. But if we are to radically empower innovators to build an inspired future, we don’t expect to take the easy path.

Come Solve with Us in our next 15 years.

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